In an effort to mainstream decolonial thoughts and Asian experiences in the limelight of western scholarship, the UP Asian Center and the UP Center for International Studies, in partnership with the Department of International Studies of Miriam College alongside other educational institutions, held a two-day International Seminar entitled Reflections and Conversations on Decolonial last February 21-22, 2023, at the GT-Toyota Asian Cultural Center.
The first day of the seminar focused on Decolonial Thoughts and Autonomous Regions, with three speakers discussing the topic of Theorising Within the Tradition of Autonomous Knowledge. The keynote speaker was Prof. Syed Farid Alatas, a prominent sociologist and a professor at the National University of Singapore. Prof. Alatas began his discussion by highlighting two points: (1) Eurocentrism universalized European experiences and (2) The silencing of locals and dehumanization of nonwhites. He concluded his discussion with a call to engage in the task of knowledge creation actively.
The second speaker was Prof. Jose Antonio Clemente from the Department of Psychology, University of the Philippines Diliman. His discussion focused on Sikolohiyang Pilipino, its contribution, and how it can start conversing and bringing back hegemonic countries through cross-indigenous works. Noting that it is still new and lacks emphasis as an area of approach to studying decolonial scholarship in the Philippines.
Lastly, Prof. Ramon Guillermo, Director of the Center for International Studies at the University of the Philippines Diliman. His discussion began with an overview of Bantayong Pananaw, concept of nativism, and the rejection of colonial mentality. The talk ended with a call for universality that goes beyond western thought.
The second day of the seminar focused on Asian Thinkers and Middle East Asian Studies in the Philippines, led by Prof. Syed Farid Alatas as the keynote speaker highlighted the use of scientific and poetic methods as a critique of intellectual imperialism and followed by the presentation of papers on their works on decolonial thoughts and experiences in Asia.
The first presentation was entitled The Roots of Philippine Nationalism: Comparative Views from Southeast Asia by Prof. Ariel Lopez of the Asian Center, University of the Philippines Diliman. Mr. Lopez discussed Filipino identity struggles and the revolution's parallelism with neighboring countries.
The second was entitled Haunting Heroism: Pasyong Rizal and the Millenarian Imaginary by Prof. Noel Christian Moratilla. His discussion focused on the spiritual narratives of Filipinos and the underlying identity and historical consciousness toward Rizal as a symbol of a national hero. He ended his discussion by explaining how historical events and narratives challenge dominant values in decentering Rizal.
The third is entitled Syed Hussien Alatas on emancipating the Captive Mind and the production of Decolonial Knowledge by Prof. Esmail Zeny of Xiamen University Malaysia. His work outlined the factors of coloniality of knowledge and standard practices of dishonesty and corruption in societies. Lastly, the work entitled The Poverty of Middle East Studies in the Philippine Academic Literature by Prof. Henelito A. Sevilla Jr. His work explained the effect of silencing and marginalization of the pre-colonial knowledge system in the Philippines.
Following the presentations, reactors from different institutions and universities gave informative and fruitful remarks. One of the reactors was Prof. Lorna Q. Israel, the Graduate Program Coordinator of the Department of International Studies at Miriam College. Prof. Israel commended the speakers for their expertise on decolonial scholarship. She started with an opening message saying, "Words create the world," bearing in mind that we are the product of world construct. Prof. Lorna explains the necessity of using a comparative understanding of Asian knowledge and reflects on the connection between Eurocentrism and the need to repurpose and reinvent it. She also highlighted the dechristianization of decolonial scholarship in the Philippines as a stepping stone to re-examine ourselves towards Muslims.
Other reactors who shared their insights were Prof. Beverly Garcia from Mindanao State University - General Santos City, Prof. Noe Pobadora from the Department of International Studies from New Era University, and Prof. Mustapha Dimaro, DPA, from Mindanao State University Marawi - Main Campus.
Mr. Matthew Santamaria, Assistant to the Dean for Cultural Affairs Asian Center at UP Diliman, concluded the two-day seminar workshop. He recognizes Filipinos' colonial experiences that shape the development of decolonial studies across the country. Mr. Santamaria also emphasizes the need to delve deeper into our past roots to understand the present better.
The event attendees were Prof. Aron Garchitorena, Jill Fernandez, an IS Alumnae, and six IS students, namely: Angelica Boquiren, Erica De Leoz, Irish Francisco, Danielle Noche, Maureen Rosario, and Zoe Verzo.
By: Angelica Boquiren, Irish Francisco, Maureen Rosario